Monday, August 30, 2010

The August Honey Harvest

We took the super off the hive on the right (the previously weaker hive, also known as the combined several times hive) on 8/7, and spun out four frames of honey with our young apprentice beekeepers.

Harvesting is a great time for friends to come and play.

Even more fun can be had on bottling day (8/8), when you can pull out some jars from previous harvests and have taste tests of the varied vintages.

Yesterday we (the original two beekeepers) took the supers off the left hive (the stronger hive at the beginning of the summer...also known as the hive we started from a nuc in 2009), and also harvested four frames of honey from that hive.

We've left both hives with two deeps and one super full of honey and nectar. There are a couple supers on the party porch with varied stages of uncapped nectar that the bees are cleaning out prior to storage for the winter in the garage.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sticky Board Test

We just attended the short course at the Eastern Apicultural Society Conference in Boone, NC. We came home with several plans of of which was to test our bees regularly for varroa mites. The sticky board test is one of the easier methods, especially with our hive design.

I gooped a bunch of petroleum jelly on a sticky board, and then we stuck the boards in the bottom of the hives for 24 hours.

This ended up being a five person project as good friends were visiting. After 24 hours we all peered together at the boards and counted the tiny mites. You can see them with the naked eye, but it is easier with a magnifying glass. The good news...both hives had a low enough count that no treatment is needed right now. We plan to do a monthly check.

The bad news...I'm starting to find small hive beetles in the hives, one here and there. When I took the sticky board off the smaller hive, there were three beetles on the board skuttling around. Time to research small hive beetles.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Exploring the Bottom Deep

We wanted to check back in on the tall hive (formerly our stronger hive, now our weaker hive on the left....the hive that was started in spring '09 from a nuc). We had looked in the supers and in the top deep, but were wondering if the bottom deep was empty, as sometimes happens as the bees move up.

Having found brood and the queen in the top deep last week, we had no idea what was going in down below.

Today we took off the supers and covered them with a towel to keep them calm and prevent robbing. Then we took off the top deep and put it off to another side, also with a towel.

The bees were a little pissy because it was thundering and about to rain, but no one got stung.

We found frames of honey and pollen in the bottom deep. We decided to switch out the deeps so the brood was below and the honey was up top. Not sure if that was called for or not, but it seemed a good idea at the time.

The frame pictured up top is from the bottom deep. You can see honey, some of it capped and both workers and drones, back in the hive to avoid bad weather.

The safety reminder of the day...always make sure your jacket and hood are completely zipped. I had a girl walking around on my zipper heads trying to find her way in today. Had I left even a small gap, she would have gone straight for my throat. Eep.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Reversals of Fate and Biodiversity

The hive that was booming in the spring is now limping along, with fewer bees dancing outside and spotty brood pattern within. No more of the beautiful "peanut butter smear" of brood and frames simply covered with bees. ABK believes this hive swarmed, despite our efforts in helping them feel less crowded.
The picture below is kind of fun because you can see several caps in process as they tuck in the larva for them to go through their pupal stage.

Regardless, they do have brood, and they do have a queen. ABK spotted her in the top deep as we were poking around.
Meanwhile, in the ubercombined hive that was mostly dead in spring, things are going swimmingly. Lots of bees doing lots of work.
We noted that the bees in this hive are highly varied in appearance. We think that the queen who finally took over mated with a diversity of drones. You can see some bees on the cover, below, that are our more traditional golden bee, but some that are longer and almost solid black.

We'll continue to monitor the progress. Soon we'll harvest any excess honey and get the hives reduced down for winter.
Current debate and research goes to whether to take the bottom deep out entirely or to just switch the places of the deeps if there are no brood and stores in the bottom deep. Time to get the books out.